The Florida Gators beat the Georgia Bulldogs 27-3 on Saturday. The easy narrative to tell is that UGA continued its mid-season swoon on offense, while Florida just cruised to another big win as they did when beating Ole Miss 38-10 or Missouri 21-3.
That narrative is true on its face, but it's not at all indicative of how the 2015 Cocktail Party went. UF did play like the better team in a lot of ways, but this game was far closer than either that narrative or the final score makes it seem.
This review is based upon the Five Factors of winning. It only includes the first three quarters because the game hit garbage time when it turned over to the fourth quarter. I did keep the first three plays of the fourth because they finished out a Florida drive that began in the third, but that's it from the final frame. All sacks count as pass plays.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
Well, this is the first time I've seen a team get blanked on explosive plays in both running and passing prior to garbage time. Faton Bauta did connect on a 26-yard completion to Malcolm Mitchell in the fourth quarter, but again, that was in garbage time. It was the only explosive play in the whole game for the Bulldogs.
Florida hit on explosive plays at a nice but unremarkable rate. One of them was a 66-yard touchdown catch for Antonio Callaway, so explosive plays did make a real difference in the outcome. This is one of the few areas of the game where Florida had a decisive lead.
The main measure here is success rate.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
Neither team could run the ball consistently well. Neither team could pass the ball consistently well. And yes, UGA actually rated out as a bit more efficient than Florida did. This is what I'm talking about with the game being closer than it looked either on the scoreboard or in total yards (where UF had a 413-223 edge).
The Gators only had two long, sustained drives. One was their first of the game, which featured a 44.4% success rate and a missed field goal. The other was their final drive of this analysis, which had a 30% success rate and ended in a turnover on downs in the red zone. Both drives had at least big play that ate up a nice chunk of the field that kept them moving when their efficiency rate otherwise might not.
Georgia's defense was pretty great on a down-to-down basis. Much better than you might think.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR|
I threw in those three straggling fourth quarter plays for Florida into its third quarter success rate.
Georgia's offense did get better for the most part as the game went along. It even cranked out a long, sustained drive in the fourth quarter. It could've pulled the Bulldogs to a 20-10 deficit with plenty of time left, but Bauta threw an interception in the end zone.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
Well, I guess I have to address the elephant in the room. Bauta's downfall was four picks, although only two of them came in the first three quarters. But picks aside, he was at about the same place as his counterpart in blue was.
Harris's figures are padded by that 66-yard TD pass to Callaway. Absent that, his line becomes 35.3%, 94.7 passing efficiency, 4.8 YPA, two sacks, and a 21.1% success rate. Harris did damage with his legs, as I'll note later, but from a throwing standpoint, he was not significantly better than Bauta at anything other than not turning it over. Which is huge, obviously, but neither quarterback had a passing performance to be proud of. Harris was just fortunate to have Callaway to throw to.
Mediocre quarterback figures tend to lend themselves to mediocre receiving figures. Go figure.
Another big play that went against UGA was when Rome got behind the defense but dropped what appeared to be a sure touchdown pass in the second quarter.
The only way before the game I'd have believed that Florida would win with Robinson not catching a ball (he didn't in the fourth quarter either) was if it was a repeat of last year when Harris attempted just six passes with the run game doing all the work.
Without a good pass game, and without Nick Chubb, Florida just keyed off on the run. I will say I'm surprised Marshall hasn't gotten more carries since Chubb's injury, but I'm not at practice.
Going back to the spring, the word on Bauta was that his advantage over Brice Ramsey was greater mobility. Verne and especially Gary were expecting to see some designed quarterback runs for Bauta. Nope.
This—along with the whole interceptions thing—is where Harris proved to be more valuable over Bauta. He extended drives with explosive runs twice and gave the Bulldog defense more trouble than any other runner.
Taylor's day felt better than this after the game was over, and his gorgeous fourth quarter touchdown run was probably a lot of that thanks to recency bias. Maybe it was also due to the fact that he was stopped for no gain or a loss on only on one of his runs captured here. The Gator offensive line couldn't really open up run lanes all that often, but Taylor didn't get completely stuffed often either.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
Both teams got short fields following turnovers, but that aside, Florida did get a little bit of a field position advantage throughout.
A trip inside the 40 is any drive with a first down at the 40 or closer or a long scoring play from beyond, while a red zone trip is a drive with a first down at the 20 or closer.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
Good news: UGA got points on every scoring opportunity in the first three quarters. Bad news: it only had one of them, and it was due to short field after a Florida turnover.
Florida didn't generate a ton itself, and one of the scoring opportunities was Callaway's long score. UGA forced a field goal try that ended up missing, and it also got a big fourth down stop in the red zone during the third quarter as well. Despite being put in bad situations at times and getting no help from the offense, the Bulldog defense really showed up.
Florida won this battle 3-1, and points off turnovers were a big story. Reggie Davis fumbled a punt that the Gators recovered in the end zone, and the Gators had a five-yard touchdown drive following an interception. UGA's only points came off of the Gators' lost turnover, a fumble by Harris.
For the whole game, it was a larger 5-1 UF victory thanks to a pair of fourth quarter picks for Bauta.
I don't like to say that a game would've been completely different if you just changed a few plays throughout. Different numbers on a scoreboard will change the way coaches call their games. For example, maybe if Team X didn't get that cheap touchdown in the first half, Team Y could have gone with its strong run game more in the second half instead of having to lean on its shaky pass game. The scoreboard dictates strategy to a great degree, so unless you're just tweaking a few plays at the end, there's usually no way to say how a game might've been different. That's not even taking into account swings of momentum, if you believe such things exist.
I'm not so sure that's the case with this one. Both offenses were bad throughout, but I didn't detect much of a change in strategy from Florida until the game looked out of hand in middle of the fourth quarter. If Davis doesn't fumble that punt, and Bauta doesn't throw four interceptions, this game probably would have just ended up more in the 7-3 or 14-3 range. And maybe if the score was closer late in the game, Mark Richt could've pulled out some kind of special trick play to get a quick score and possibly win.
From that standpoint, Richt might have lost this game by going with Bauta over Greyson Lambert—especially because we never saw Bauta's claimed mobility ever come into play. For all of Lambert's faults, he hasn't been a turnover machine. His interception percentage is 1.3%, which is on the low end for a starting quarterback. I feel comfortable in saying that the Bulldogs would've been in a better position to win had their quarterback not thrown four interceptions. I know that might be controversial, but I stand by it.
On the flip side, this was another game where Florida looked like the better coached team that prospered by not screwing up and letting the other team screw up. It's a big change. So often over the past five years of futility, Florida was turning it over at bad times or committing drive-extending penalties on defense or generally doing things that helped the opponents. There were some exceptions, largely in 2012 like the 44-11 win over South Carolina where the team was outgained 191-183, but Florida was more likely to make more big mistakes than its opponent was.
This year's Gators haven't done much of that. They lead the SEC by a mile in turnover margin at +13, with LSU in second at +6. They have committed the fourth-most penalties in the conference so far, but it's not a bunch of big ones as they're accruing the fourth-fewest yards per penalty.
The fact that Georgia was only a handful of plays away from being in real contention in this game isn't really a good reflection on either team. It more emphasizes that neither of these teams played all that well, but Florida just managed not to make those catastrophically bad plays and made a few really good plays.
I'm more convinced than ever that the big win over Ole Miss is probably the best we'll see Florida play all year. The team edged past East Carolina, needed a big comeback against Tennessee, and rode the defense in mediocre offensive performances against Kentucky, Missouri, and Georgia. There certainly is something to be said for winning games rather than losing them, but this isn't a complete team. It has thinness and flaws and warts all over.
And it's going to win the East comfortably. That says something about the state of the East, but it also says that, barring an unexpected collapse, Jim McElwain should probably end up SEC Coach of the Year.